Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What is the Point of it All?

Yesterday we talked about understanding our church history, community and culture and why this matters when it comes to selecting the best curriculum "fit" for your unique ministry. Today we are going to take a look at one of the essential ingredients for effective children's ministry - determining your ministry vision and purpose. The first thing you have to do to create your own recipe for genuinely effective children’s ministry, is to realize which ingredients are essential for every ministry and which need to reflect your own unique children’s ministry.  For example, if I’m baking chocolate chip cookies, I won’t get very far if I don’t use flour and chocolate chips.  However, some people like to put nuts in their chocolate chip cookies and others are like a certain little two year old I know who believes the perfect chocolate chip cookie includes peanut butter, oatmeal and of course lots of chocolate chips!  There are ingredients every church needs - the flour and chocolate chips.  There are also ingredients I can add, change or delete so my children’s ministry will be as effective as possible.  First, let’s look at the essential ingredients - the flour and chocolate chips! 
Every church needs to have a vision and purpose.  If you know what you are aiming for, then you are much more likely to be effective.  If you do not have a vision/purpose, then it is really difficult to know what you are doing and how to be effective in your ministry.  The vision/purpose is your “flour”, but while it is essential, it still needs to reflect your own church’s unique history, community, values and culture, so maybe you use, “whole wheat flour” or “all purpose flour” or “oatmeal” - all are flour, but what works in one “recipe” isn’t necessarily the best for another.  You may want to ask other churches what their vision/purposes are, but while they may get you thinking, understand your vision and purpose needs to reflect your ministry, not someone else’s ministry.  Ask yourself the following questions -
  1. What do you want to accomplish in your children’s ministry?  The vision for your children’s ministry should reflect the vision of your church as a whole with a specific focus on your children’s ministry purpose.  For example, the vision for my church is – “To be a healthy spiritual community marked by uncompromising love for Jesus Christ, caring commitment to each other and bold compassion for those who don’t yet share Christ’s life.”  So, my church’s vision for our children’s ministry is for it to be - “A healthy community marked by uncompromising love for and commitment to children, families and Christ!”  Again, your vision may be similar or completely different, but it should reflect your church’s heart and what you want your children's ministry to look like.  Remember, teaching aims and the vision for your ministry are not the same thing.  It may be a teaching aim for you to help your kids memorize Scripture or learn the 10 Commandments or study the Beatitudes.  Your ministry vision is where you want to see your children’s ministry end up.  
  2. Why do we have a children’s ministry?  Because the adults in your church have kids and you have to do something with them, right?!!!  It’s more than that.  Why do you have a children’s ministry?  Anyone can provide a babysitting service for kids, but a children’s ministry is more than that.  What is your purpose for having a children‘s ministry?  As you develop your church’s purpose for your children’s ministry, keep in mind the purpose God has for PARENTS - read Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and Psalm 78:1-8.  The church must be careful in the development of their children’s ministry purpose that they do not replace the parents. My church has a purpose for our children’s ministry - “To support families in discipling their children as they grow to love God and serve Him with their lives."  Your purpose may be similar, or completely different, but it should reflect your own church’s unique purpose. Remember, your purpose should explain how you will accomplish your vision for your children’s ministry.  For example, my church’s vision for our children’s ministry is to be a – “healthy community marked by uncompromising commitment to children, families and Christ.”   We can become that community by supporting families as they disciple their children to love God and serve Him. 
Once you determine your vision and purpose for your children's ministry then consider the following steps to help your church understand them.
1.    Put your vision/purpose in words and get it out before the eyes and heart of your congregation.
a.    Make posters for your walls
b.    Make bookmarks and put them in bulletins, at your visitor/information booth and provide for all CE classes.
c.    Ask everyone to pray for your children's ministry with your vision and purpose in mind.
2.    Evaluate and select your curriculum based on if it provides the tools to accomplish your vision/purpose - we will look at this tomorrow.

 Your ministry vision and purpose are essential ingredients for your own unique recipe for effective children's ministry. Now that you understand your church history, community and culture and have your vision and purpose you are ready to evaluate curriculum!

Tomorrow we will begin to look at the different types of curriculum and how to determine which best fits your unique ministry! 

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